Nurse executives across the state are calling on Oklahoma's governor and health officials to address the shortage of nurses.
Organizations representing Oklahoma nurses sent a letter to Governor Kevin Stitt on Nov. 9.
Leaders with the Oklahoma Nurses Association (ONA) and Oklahoma Organization of Nurse Executives (OONE) said they were able to meet Gov. Stitt’s chief of staff and Oklahoma State Department of Health Commissioner Lance Frye on Dec. 2.
ONA and OONE said the meeting led to some progress, but there's still work to be done.
In the Nov. 9 letter addressed to Gov. Stitt, ONA and OONE said the state is "experiencing an exodus of nurses leaving the profession due to moral distress and exhaustion."
On Dec. 3, leaders that represent Oklahoma nurses shared details about the meeting in a virtual conference call with local media.
"We work hard within Oklahoma to stay competitive with each other, knowing that we have limited resources,” said Cathy Pierce, chief nurse executive at OU Medicine.
ONA and OONE shared with state leaders their six recommendations to deal with the nursing shortage.
Recommendations include directing the state health department to contract with a staffing agency that crowdsources workers and developing a marketing campaign to attract nurses.
"Either they're retired, or they have taken off for other life reasons and encouraging them back to the hospital and work with the bedside," explained Kristen Webb, president of the Oklahoma Organization of Nurse Executives President.
ONA and OONE also recommend using CARES Act money to create scholarships and to pay nurses more competitively.
"So the CARES Act money has to be used by the end of December, so I think it's a matter of figuring out how do we make that happen by the end of the month and can we make that happen," said Jane Nelson, CEO of the Oklahoma Nurses Association.
Lastly, ONA and OONE are calling on state leaders to support new resources for academic nursing programs and implement a face mask requirement.
ONA and OONE said nearly every surrounding state beats Oklahoma when it comes to pay and the number of nurses.
Those at the meeting said they are optimistic about improving Oklahoma’s situation by working with state leaders.